A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for April, 2016

Keep calm and.. moisturize

Posted by Pepper on April 29, 2016

Mint has terribly dry skin. The skin on his legs is completely parched. If you even gently run your nails around his ankles, you will see white flaky lines all over. The sight would make me cringe. I had been pointing out to him for years, that his skin needs intense moisturizing. But the guy would simply ignore my pleas and concerns.

Well, on second thoughts. He wouldn’t ignore them. He would promise to take action. I bought the best body butter I could lay my hands on (rich cocoa enriched with shea, I must add). Along with that, I ensured he had timely reminders from me. Please use it regularly! He would promise to do so but most of the promises would fall flat after he had used the cream once or twice. He simply couldn’t keep up. Moisturizing was never a part of his daily regime.

To make it easier for him, I bought a bottle of some nourishing body oil. Probably that was easier and quicker to use. Again, he promised he would use it but he was simply unable to live up to his commitment. I moved the bottle of body oil next to his shower area. This would make it hard to miss. It would be in a very accessible location. All he had to do was pat down some oil after his shower. As usual, he said he would do it. But after a month of me eyeing the bottle and noticing no change in the quantity it held, I decided to give up without even confronting him this time.

The last time we were in the US, I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of ‘Jergens Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer’ for him. I don’t give up easily, you see. Maybe this one would help repair his skin, even if he didn’t use it religiously. It was a big bottle and I just hoped the extra weight in my luggage would be worth it. But who was I kidding? The bottle sat untouched on our dressing table for months.

Some time ago, I noticed those awful marks on Mint’s ankles again. Flaky white scrawling. It made me shriek. Enough was enough. I pushed him back on the bed, pumped some moisturizer onto my palm and applied it on his legs. To my relief, I could see an instant difference in his skin. It looked so much healthier with just one use.

That was motivation enough. I began to apply moisturizer on his legs every night. He would sit back and continue using his laptop, I would silently massage his legs. The boy got used to it of course. Whenever I asked him to do it on his own, he would grin and ask me to do it instead. This was my own doing. I knew it. He needs to worship me. I’ll let him know that I accept offerings in both cash and kind.

That is how our night time ritual began. It continues till date. And surprisingly, rubbing moisturizer on his legs is something I have come to enjoy myself. It is rewarding to see his skin heal, day by day. In the quiet of our air conditioned bedroom (for which we need to be so grateful! I keep thinking of how the homeless survive in this heat), with the calming scent of eucalyptus, and our bottle of Jergens, we find our solace in fixing things.

Dear Mint, just keep in mind though that without me in your life, you’ll have some rough times.

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 25 Comments »

Being stupid

Posted by Pepper on April 25, 2016

Time and again I find myself going ahead and doing things that have absolutely no explanation. These are the things that make my family address me as ‘mental’, or like my mom says, ‘crack’.

This time, it happened in my cousin’s home. The sister and I were playing with the said cousin’s kids. The young lad had a bow and arrow set that I was particularly fascinated by. This was no ordinary bow and arrow set. This one came with a laser beam that would help you aim and target. Very neat. The arrows were long and sturdy and had suction cups at the end. The suction actually worked, unlike the ones on the darts that I used to have as a kid. We continued playing for a while.

When it was time for the kids to be fed, the sister and I sat back and I continued fidgeting with the arrows. I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to stick the arrow in the center of my forehead and see how long it stays there. I forbid you from asking me why. Because, well, I don’t know. I am whimsical and feel overcome by strange urges.

To my surprise, the arrow got neatly glued to my forehead. So the suction works on all kinds of surfaces, I thought. I wanted to see how long it would stay, so I let it be there as I continued to chat with my aunt, who was kind enough to ignore it. The sister kept eyeing me suspiciously but chose to not say anything in front of the many people around. Half an hour passed.

We finally found ourselves alone in the room. The arrow was still sticking out of my forehead and she pounced on me. “Do you know how ridiculous you look? Stop being so mental in front of others at least.” Saying that, she grabbed the arrow and decided to yank it out without any warning.

The suction turned out to be more powerful than I thought. The skin on my forehead was suddenly pulled, tugged and stretched without any warning. It was stinging for a few brief seconds and then it was gone. But of course, I yelled at the sister and asked her why she would pull it out like that without warning. She kept muttering something about me looking exceptionally stupid.

And then after a few moments, she gasped and asked “What is that!”. Turned out, my forehead had a big round circular mark, where the arrow had been attached. Yikes! I waited for a few minutes and sent this pic to Mint on WhatsApp.


He decided to annoy me further by sending me this pic and said I could cite her as my inspiration for the new look I was sporting. Do you know now why I want to murder him?



No offense meant to Usha Uthup. She looks great, but I think that look is best suited to her, and maybe a few others. Not me!

To my horror, the next day the circular mark had turned a bright purple. Every single person is curious to know how it happened. It isn’t often that you get to see such perfectly shaped scars. What is the secret? I tried telling a few people the truth, only to have them dissolve in fits of laughter. I could see the look in their eyes. The look that screamed, “She is such a lunatic.”

Gah. The world thinks I am stupid and now I have my stupidity stamped on my forehead quite literally. I knew it would leave its mark someday. It’s been 3 days and the bruise refuses to go. This makes the entire world question me. And then laugh at me. I’m sorry, I don’t know why sticking toy arrows on your forehead is not considered a part of normal adult behavior. I wish I could lie about how the bruise came but I can’t think of anything that will explain such a perfect circle.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 60 Comments »

A new decade!

Posted by Pepper on April 20, 2016

I celebrated my birthday a few days ago. I turned, wait for it, 30! I expected myself to be overcome by that feeling of alarm and dread. Because, it is 30 we are talking about. 30 is big. 30 is so big. I have a handful of friends who are just under 30, and they wanted to know ‘how it felt to be 30’. I have a lot of friends who are over 30 and all of them brushed if off saying it is just a number. I waited all day for that feeling to hit me. Some amount of fear? Some regret? Some uncertainty? Surprisingly, other than excitement, I felt nothing else.

In fact, I remember being far more anxious on my 20th birthday. Entering a new decade felt a lot more scary back then. I couldn’t believe the teens were over. I wanted to hold on to them some more. I just liked the idea of being considered ‘young’. It let you get away with being stupid. And here I was, crossing the 30 mark already. Not really much wiser. Time does zoom by. This makes me think I will be 40 in the blink of an eye. And I wonder how that will feel.

I have to say, I have over indulged myself this month. I told myself turning 30 will justify all that extra shopping I do. It is after all a part of some mega celebration. I started with the basics. I needed lingerie. My existing collection was in tatters, quite literally. Very unglamorous. A 30 year old has to shine inwardly too. So I bought myself some decent stuff.

I then moved to night dresses. My tees and pajamas are again, to put it mildly, quite faded and worn out. So new night wear was purchased and the old ones have either been given away or been converted to tools used for dusting. I am 30 and I deserve all new things now.

I have also been experimenting with lip colour. It has been a long journey. Using lipsticks made me feel supremely conscious and overdone. In a wannabe sort of way. I thought they weren’t meant for me. One of my resolutions this year was to feel more confident with lip colour. I started out with such nude shades, Mint would not believe me when I said I had a lipstick on. But I loved the nudes. They added texture and a very subtle colour to my lips. They were just what I liked.

Over time, I started playing with bolder colours. I used a radiant peach of sorts and when I got a million compliments for that, I went and picked out a red! I must say, I have used the red a total of one time. It still makes me feel like I have stepped too far out of my comfort zone, but I am told it looks great. Hopefully, I will stop being conscious. For my birthday, I treated myself to two new lip colours. One a nude and the other a vivid pink. They were so expensive, I was full of doubt. What if I buy them and never use them? I decided to squish the doubt and buy them anyway. Because it was my birthday! And buying them would be good incentive to use them.

Another product that I had been wanting to buy for a long time was a dry shampoo. I had never in my life heard of one until a few months ago. I was told it was a substitute for a hair wash. All you had to do was spray it on your hair and the oiliness would disappear. I couldn’t believe it! If there is one thing I hate, it is having to wash my hair every two days. If a product could let me cut back on those washes, I had to get it! And what better time than turning 30?

There were a lot of expensive ones available online, but since I was going to be experimenting, I didn’t want to spend too much. I bought this one after some consideration. Unfortunately, I don’t think this substitutes for a hair wash. Well, not for me at least. However, it does reduce the oiliness and fluffs up your hair to a good extent. I am guessing I will use it before heading out for unplanned dinners, when I discover my hair looks fairly sticky (common story in my life), so I will still call it a useful buy. Next time, I may just try another brand.

I am also happy to note I have changed my dressing style. Finally. After all those years of wearing jeans and nothing else other than jeans, I am finally comfortable with dresses and skirts. I have also developed a fairly good color sense and when I look back at some of the clothes I wore earlier, I ask myself ‘Why?’. I know the answer though. I didn’t care enough about how I looked earlier. I find myself caring a little more and taking more interest in my appearance in the past year or two. I like how I dress and look now. I think at 30, I am in a happy spot. So of course, I had to buy myself some new clothes too. And oh, since we were at it, I bought myself a lovely new hand bag.

And as an icing on the cake, I had to buy myself some good books. A 30 year old has to always have something interesting to read and stimulate her ageing brain cells after all. I bought ‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan and ‘The museum of extraordinary things’ by Alice Hoffman. Both the books seem pretty good and I am half way through Beside Myself. Maybe I should not be so reluctant to do book reviews on my blog. Considering how many books I read, it is strange that I have not posted a single review. Book reviews are something I find myself incapable of doing. Some day maybe..

The build up to my birthday was exciting and fun. On the actual day, I went out for lunch with Mint and a friend. This is one of the things we ordered. A platter with 14 dips. The place was on my list for a long time, so for a change I wasn’t very confused about where I wanted to go for my birthday lunch.

And here is a picture of me cutting my 30th birthday cake.



We headed out for a family dinner with my parents and sis after the cake cutting session in the evening. I had such a lovely day. It was all so different from my 29th birthday, where everything seemed to annoy me. I guess they are right when they say, “Attitude is everything”

Posted in Celebrations | 51 Comments »

Trip to Fort Bassein

Posted by Pepper on April 15, 2016

Despite having grown up in Mumbai, there are still several places that I never had the opportunity to explore. I thought it was time we start savoring the true flavors of this city. Discovering new places is one of our favourite activities anyway, so it would be a joyous way to spend summer. I started by making a list of the places I wanted to visit. Most of them were just day trips. One such place was Fort Bassein.

We expected it to be an hour long drive. Our aim was to leave by 8 am, but as usual, we ended up starting much later. After a quick breakfast, we were off. I was excited. We were visiting a place that contained years of history. The actual Portuguese name of the place was ‘Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim’. Bacaim turned into Bassein which eventually turned into modern day Vasai. Who knew a random suburb of the city held such ancient stories?

These ruins were the headquarters of the Portuguese rule in the 16th and 17th centuries! Here are some very interesting excerpts from Wiki. “The Greek merchant Cosmas Indicopleustes is known to have visited the areas around Bassein in the 6th century, and the Chinese traveller Xuanzang later on June or July 640. According to Historian Joseph Gerson Da Cunha, during this time, Bassein and its surrounding areas appeared to have been ruled by the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka.

The coast of Bassein was first visited by the Portuguese in 1509, when Francisco de Almeida on his way to Diu captured a Muslim ship in the harbour of Bombay, with 24 citizens of Gujarat aboard. 

The Treaty of Bassein was signed by Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat and the Kingdom of Portugal on 23 December 1534 while on board the galleon São Mateus. Based on the terms of the agreement, the Portuguese Empire gained control of the city of Bassein, as well as its territories, islands, and seas. 

In the 18th century, the fort was taken over by the Maratha army under Peshwa Baji Rao’s brother Chimaji Appa, and fell in 1739 after a three-year-long campaign. The British shortly attacked and took over the territory from the Marathas as the price for supporting one faction of the Marathas against another.

I am extremely fascinated by historic monuments. So I was looking forward to the first glimpse of the place. It turned out to be pretty much how I expected it to be. Quite lovely! It wasn’t very crowded on that particular day, and we walked around making our way through overgrown shrubs. I was transported back to an era that held battles between the Portuguese, the Marathas and the British.

Here is a random mix of pictures. Some of these structures were the royal mansions, administrative centers  and other establishments of the Portuguese.





And some pics of us…





After our little tour, I was very excited about having lunch at the Mahila Mandal restaurant. This is a part of an NGO run by a local teacher, Mrs Indumathy Barve. Mrs Barve is 93 years old and still runs this establishment, employing 250 women. You can read about her here. The food served here is hygienic and absolutely delicious.

We ordered this thali and this plateful of awesomeness cost us only Rs. 55.


Each item was freshly prepared and packed with bags of local flavour. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh pickle. The thali was a no frills, home cooked local meal. Just the kind of food I appreciate! Of course, as per the law that governs my life, I had to drop some dal on my white dress. It made me very cranky, but thankfully I was able to get the stain off. It miraculously disappeared and I could rescue my dress. On the whole, it was a day well spent!

If you live around Mumbai and are interested in history and heritage, I recommend a trip to Fort Bassein. And while you are there, don’t miss the lunch at Shramik Mahila Mandal.

Posted in Slices of life, Travel | 12 Comments »

Some days are like that

Posted by Pepper on April 14, 2016

I’ve never been an efficient cook. While I can manage to cook a decent meal, it takes me forever to put it together. And when I see people who can cook for a group of 10 in an hour or so, I feel awful. I usually take about an hour or so to whip up something for 2 to 3 people. In fact, I find the ‘prep time’ stated by most recipes to be very misleading. Especially when it comes to Indian cooking. How can chopping all those veggies, dicing onions, preparing the ginger garlic paste take only 30 minutes? It takes me a year. Sigh.

I must say, my timing had improved a little when I was forced to cook everyday while we lived in the US. All those years of preparing meals all by myself had resulted in me being a little fast, or faster than my usual self at least. Unfortunately, ever since we moved back to India, I managed to unlearn all the skills I had acquired. All the cooking was outsourced. I still feel grateful when I am presented with a hot meal prepared by our cook. But I have to admit, I have lost touch with everyday cooking.

But of course, there are still days when I want to cook on my own. Because like I have said, although our cook has a steady hand when it comes to Indian cooking, she has very rigid ideas in her head. She refuses to explore or innovate. As a result, we are forced to eat not just Indian food, but Indian food prepared in the same way. Also, she has little to no knowledge of South Indian cuisine. Or any other regional cuisine for that matter. It is all completely alien to her. She refused to even believe that sambar was eaten with rice. She insisted sambar was had only with idlis and dosas, the way it is served in Udupi restaurants in Mumbai. Sigh. For a self proclaimed samhar saadam lover, such lack of knowledge was blasphemous.

And so, on some days I cook. It takes me forever, but I still think the effort and time I put in is worth it if it gives us a break from the regular fare. I also read so many food blogs, I feel overcome by the desire to try out the recipes I have bookmarked. Trying to ‘explain’ the recipe to our cook is a pointless exercise. Doing it yourself is far simpler. Ideally though, I should ask our cook to chop and get all prep work done. Unfortunately, I end up giving her a day off every time I decide to cook. This is because I feel guilty asking her to come all the way just for chopping a few things.

It takes me forever to dice 3 onions and peel a few pods of garlic. I time myself, I try so hard to speed up, but each time I feel let down and discouraged by the amount of time it takes me. And some days are worse than the others. Other than moving in the kitchen in an exceptionally slow manner, I successfully create one disaster after another.

Like the other day, I was excited about trying a new recipe I had found on some blog. I placed my laptop on the kitchen counter and plugged it in to a socket on the other side. As a result, I tripped on the charging cable and dropped the little bowl of yogurt I was carrying in my hand. It took me a couple of minutes to clean up the spilt yogurt.

And then, I tried to puree some tomatoes in the mixie. The result was a shower of tomato puree all over my face, my arm, the mixie, the floor, the cabinets and even the ceiling! Either I overshot the capacity of our mixer or I didn’t hold down the lid right, but the result was not pleasant. In fact it made me cry.



After the hour long clean up session, I was beginning to question my own sanity. Why do I even attempt to cook when I have the option not to? Maybe I am incapable. Maybe these things are not meant for me. Mint got home exactly at that time and on seeing the bedlam, let out a laugh. Of course, I wanted to hit him for laughing at me. That night when he was clearing the kitchen after dinner (that we ordered), he came up to tell me that he could spot some dried red pulp on some cabinets on the other end of the kitchen. I sighed. Looked like I had coloured our kitchen red. This was going to need a few more sessions of cleaning up.

I’m not sure what changed by morning, but the next morning I decided I wasn’t giving up. I love food too much to do that. Instead, I am going to have to try harder. Let’s see how this goes..

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 39 Comments »

Living with anxiety..

Posted by Pepper on April 9, 2016

Some months ago, Mint came home and told me he was planning a trek to Sikkim with his colleagues. A 9 day trek that would take them through the Himalayan range. Typically in such situations, my initial reaction is to lose it and ask him to cut it out. Because I am by nature an extremely anxious person. The first thought that enters my head is: what if something goes wrong? Why expose yourself to dangers that can easily be avoided? How will I get by the days living with such intense worry?

Unfortunately, other than being an anxious person, I am also a fairly rational person and realise my own line of thought is at times quite ridiculous. I find it hard to justify my fears to my own self, let alone to Mint. Other than knowing the odds of something fatal happening were very low, I also knew living a life completely devoid of risks isn’t a possibility. And of course, we also have all those theories about space and letting your partner live their own life and blah. So this time when he told me about the trek, I said nothing. When he told me he was  booking his flight tickets, I said nothing. I remained silent as he went about making all his travel arrangements. He booked his accommodation, purchased the gear he would need be needing for his trek. It was all finalised.

And then two days before he was to leave, I broke down. I realised he would be going through completely uncivilized terrain and passing through settlements with no electricity. There would be no mobile coverage. The thought of remaining disconnected for days together when he was in the wild made me feel sick. I threw a fit and asked him to cancel his trip. He looked at me with disbelief when I said it. I was asking him to cancel a trip that he had booked over 3 months in advance, one that he was highly looking forward to, was fully paid for and would result in a complete loss. Yes, I repeated what I had just said. Don’t go.

He negotiated with me for a while, requested me not worry. When I would not budge, he agreed to cancel it. As usual, I didn’t know what it was that would make me happy. The thought of him going was killing me with worry. The thought of him not going was killing me with guilt. After a lot of turmoil, I turned around and asked him to go. Only to back out a day before he was to leave and create another scene. I screamed, accused him of not caring about me, being the most inconsiderate partner and so on. I knew I was being unreasonable but who is to stop me at such times? He was back to asking me if he should cancel his trip and I was back to saying no and then hating him for going.

We decided to have a good heart to heart on the evening before he was to leave. What exactly was my worry, he wanted to know. I thought for a few minutes, and then blurted out. I was worried he would die. There, I said it. Of course, he laughed and told me he was going for a trek, not on a war. Before you laugh at me, let me tell you anxiety is not rational. And it sucks that most people with anxiety realise how irrational their fears are. We had a good long discussion and he acknowledged my fears instead of dismissing or ridiculing them. Somehow that conversation put me at ease. I felt better after a long time and was able to let him leave on a cheerful note the next morning.

It took him two flights and a 7 hour car journey that went over the ghats to reach the place from where he was to start trekking. He called me the next morning before beginning his trek. I reminded him again that I expected to hear from him at least once in every 24 hours. If there was no mobile coverage in the area, he was to find a landline. He told me knew how worried I was and that was worrying him and making him uneasy. He wasn’t able to put his mind at rest knowing my condition. I promised him again that I would try to not worry.

And just like that, I lost all contact with him after that conversation. I waited for night to set in. Maybe he would call when they stopped for the day. He didn’t. I convinced myself to pull through the night. When I hadn’t heard from him by the next morning either, I was in a state of extreme panic. What could have gone wrong? I knew he would be making all possible attempts to call. So then, why couldn’t he? His phone was switched off.

One day stretched into another. By the end of the second day, I was sure I would not survive anymore. I kept calling him every 3 minutes, knowing very well that it wouldn’t help. I was trying so hard to not imagine the worst. What if something had happened to him? How would that impact me? Please God, make sure he is alive and well. I prayed with all my heart.

I was feeling physically sick by day 3. If something has happened to him and he is no more, maybe I will really not survive myself. How bloody fortunate I was to have met him in my life. Maybe I was so fortunate that it had to be short lived? He is the best thing to have happened to me. What if I have to spend the rest of my life without him? Oh my God! We have a massive loan that I will never be able to take care of single handedly. Well, I will sell the house immediately. But oh, what if I am unable to sell the house because the market prices are too low? The loan will not disappear. I will be ruined. I will be all alone. I will die too. Oh God. Stop! Stop! Stop!

On day 4 I decided I hate him. How could he subject me to this anguish for the sake of his own pleasures? He knows that I would be dying every minute. People who have partners with anxiety should try to curtail their lives and desires to an extent. Yes, this was his fault. I will never talk to him. Oh wait, I will not talk to him only after I know he is alive and well. Please God, just let me hear from him once.

He called finally on the 5th day. This time I thought I would die of relief. I had no words to tell him the kind of hell I had been to. Like I should have guessed, he could not call for all those days because he had absolutely no means to do so. No mobile network or coverage, no access to landlines. Nothing. I hated him for going to a place like that. These adventures are meant for people who are free and footloose. People who have no responsibilities and can live their lives with glee and abandonment. Not for people with massive loans and wives who suffer from anxiety disorders.

When I had calmed down though, I knew the biggest lesson was for me. I have always known my anxiety makes me deviate from my sense of logic. It begins to exercise a deep level of control over my every day life. For example, I still panic when my dad comes home two hours late and we aren’t able to get through to him. When other people would attribute it to heavy traffic and a phone that has run out of charge, my mind embarks on a journey of it’s own. What if he was in a accident? What if his phone was stolen? What if something terrible happened? How will we get through it?

I read in an article that having anxiety is like having a brain with a faulty alarm system wired into it. The alarm goes off in your head even when there is no real need for it to, even when there is no sense of danger. And then you spend your time freaking out knowing well that there is no reason to freak out, but being unable to stop yourself from freaking out. It’s like wanting to stop the blaring alarm that is causing a heart attack and driving you nuts but you just don’ know where the ‘dismiss’ button lies.

I know coping with anxiety has always been one of the biggest challenges of my life. But this whole episode has taught me that this isn’t a sustainable way to live. I will always be exposed to situations that have more questions than answers. But every time I face a question, I cannot let myself assume the worst answer, not even in my subconscious. I have promised myself I am going to try to be a more secure person. I know it will be a long journey, but the first step is making myself believe that I can do it.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour, Splashes of Mint | 45 Comments »

Into a child’s mind..

Posted by Pepper on April 8, 2016

I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog that my sister works as a teacher. What I haven’t mentioned is that I think that is one of the nicest professions in the world. Sure it is undervalued and underpaid, but hey, I think few other jobs give you a similar sense of fulfillment.

Everyday she comes home with heart warming stories of ‘her kids’. They are both exasperating and adorable. I love listening to the stories and going through the paraphernalia that she carries home. Aww inducing cards her kids make for her, calling her the best teacher in the world, notes her kids write to each other and other bits she collects through the course of the day.

This is the crumpled piece of paper she brought home one day. It was a note written by one of her students, addressed to her and another student.



It says, ” Dear A and Ms. B, I am verry Dearly sorry for not briging the erayser by tomoro i will bring it I feel sorry for A and plan to give it to A..

By M”

Like you can guess, little M forgot to carry to school the eraser given to her by little A. It looks like they were taking turns at keeping it. The next day little M was hit by a wave of guilt for forgetting the eraser. So she wrote this note of apology for A. Don’t miss out the face at the end. I can’t get over the cuteness. The sister pinned it on our soft board since both A and M decided to let her keep the note.

Sometimes I wonder, just how uncomplicated our lives are when we are kids.

Posted in Small joys | 17 Comments »

Adoption journey – Part 1

Posted by Pepper on April 7, 2016

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that we are seriously considering adopting a baby. I received a few requests by people asking me to document the process for their benefit. I figured this was a good idea. People don’t know enough about adoption in India. Writing about my experiences would not only help me record my own journey, but would also be a source of information for others who may be interested in going down this path.

So here we go. To start with, adoption is defined as “a legal process that allows someone to become the parent of a child, even though the parent and child are not related by blood. But in every other way, adoptive parents are the child’s parents”. Adoption can be done in two different ways, open and closed. It is important to note that India does not do open adoptions. By this, I mean the adoptive parents are never given access or information about the child’s birth mother / parents. Neither do the birth parents have access to the adoptive parents.

One of the reasons I felt convinced to adopt was because I was sure I would not have to share my future child with her birth family. I know my attitude reeks of insecurity. But I want my child to be only mine, at least during all the formative years. Once the child reaches 18 years of age, he/she has the right to go seek the birth family and the Indian court is legally bound to oblige and divulge all information about the child’s birth parents. Now this, I am totally comfortable with. I feel confident that both me and the child will be secure enough in 18 years. I know I can handle it then, even if it means including the birth parents as a permanent part of my child’s life. But at 3 or 5? I am really not so sure I can deal with it. I know most adoptions in the US are open adoptions and the adoptive parents are happy to involve the birth families in their child’s life. It all seems to fit in seamlessly. I hold such parents in high regard.

Since all legal adoptions in India are closed, agencies play a large role in the whole process. Or at least they did. A lot of the adoption guidelines changed in August 2015. Today, adoption in India is a completely centralized process. It is handled by Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), which is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India. After the process became centralized, the agencies role was made smaller.

To kick start the adoption process, we had to first go and register ourselves as ‘parents’ on the CARA website, http://www.cara.nic.in. We had to upload several documents. This was time consuming. Anyway, once we had put together all required documents, we decided to complete our registration on the same day. We filled in all details, selected the gender of the child we wanted to adopt, (girl! of course!) and were under the impression that our task would be completed on the same day. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be so easy.

For one, we were asked to choose ‘3 states for adoption’. That means, in order of preference, we had to note down 3 states our adopted child could come from. This confused us. Why was this a requirement? On what grounds were we to choose? How did the State matter? We weren’t baby shopping! Anyway, after some careful consideration, we realised that this may have been a requirement for a lot of Indians, which is why they had it there.

Since we really weren’t taking this part seriously, we began to fool around. Goa! Said Mint. We love Goa so much. Let’s get our baby from Goa. Karnataka, I said. I think girls from the interiors of Karnataka have gorgeous skin. It went on. Until we realised we were simply wasting time. We had to fill in those fields on a serious note. After some careful consideration, Goa was scraped out. Since Goa is a small state, we thought the babies available for adoption will be fewer in number, making our wait that much longer. We finally selected Maharashtra and two other states. No I will not tell you which ones.

The next thing we had to choose was an agency. The role of the agency in essence is to do your Home Study Report, which is the next step in the process after registering online. By a Home Study Report, I mean an evaluation of you that is done in your own home. Other than the Home Study Report, the agency will also do follow up visits to check on the child after you have legally adopted him/her. There was a long list of registered agencies we had to choose from. Again, on what grounds were we to choose?

It made complete sense to choose the agency closest to your home. Each registered agency showed a wait list number for the home study report. We were shocked to find out the wait list number for home study in some agencies close to our home was 400! That meant they had to study 400 other homes before they even got to you. The HSR is a crucial step in the adoption process, without which things will not move. We really didn’t want to be waiting that long to begin our process.

Mint and I started calling up individual agencies around our home to find out if the wait list was indeed as high as the number reflected. May be they had just not updated their websites? With that hope, we made a few calls, only to end up with more disappointment. The first agency I called was the one that showed the shortest wait list. I was spoken to very rudely and asked to not call again. They said they no longer did any adoption related work. Huh? Then why was their name still there as a registered agency?

Next, we called the CARA helpline to find out if there were any other agencies that were not functional. Why can’t they just update their website instead of making people waste time like that? It took a long time for the CARA representative to even understand our question. She kept sounding impatient and telling us to choose from a registered agency online. She insisted we would be able to view the list. Finally at the 10th attempt she understood what we were saying. That though an agency showed it was ‘registered’ online, they were no longer entertaining calls. After rechecking, she confirmed that the agency was no longer functional. Are there any other agencies like that, we asked. Again, she kept asking us to refer to the so called list to see which ones were registered. I gave up after a while.

We decided to make a few more calls to agencies. After all, we had to make a smart choice here. We would be partnering with these people for the next few months. We called agency A, B, C and D. And none of them was able to put us through the right representative. They kept telling us they don’t know the actual wait list and the concerned person wasn’t available now. We called over 5 times and yet, nobody would give us clear answers. This was highly frustrating.

One of the agencies told us that the actual wait list for home study report was even longer than what it showed online. I asked a few basic questions. How fast does the list typically move? She said something like, “Sister visits one home in a day. There are over 400 cases pending as of now”. What? The concerned ‘Sister’ visited only one home a day? Are there are any other people working on it? Why allot it to a single person when there is such a back log?  She said they had only one person assigned for this role. So even if we didn’t account for holidays, sick days and other delays, we had to wait over a year for the home study before our wait for the child even started? That didn’t make sense at all, and was not in line with what the website said.

After a lot more calls, we finally found an agency we liked. The representatives were good to talk to on phone and they assured us that the home study report would be completed in a month after we registered. The only problem? This agency was situated at the other end of the city. I wasn’t sure we were eligible candidates. Another call to CARA confirmed that we were free to pick any agency as long a it was in Mumbai. Finally, we were making progress. Without further delay, we selected the agency as the one we we wanted to work with and completed our registration online. The process had turned out far more cumbersome than what we’d expected.

To be continued…

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